Asus ZenFone 5 and 5Z review (hands-on): Flagship quality at a knockdown price
The Asus ZenFone 5Z is the last major smartphone announcement at MWC 2018 and it might just be the most surprising of this year’s show. Why? Because it’s gorgeous, it has an edge-to-edge screen that, like the iPhone X fills 90% of the front of the device, even to the top and bottom edges.
Unlike the Vivo Apex, though, there’s no clever hiding away of the front facing camera, though, so you do get a notch at the top of the screen. However, unlike the iPhone’s notch, this one is smaller, so you get to see your battery percentage and a small handful of notification icons.
Confusingly, there are two versions of this phone: the ZenFone 5 and the ZenFone 5Z. Aside from different internal specifications, though, (see the table below for details) the phones are physically identical.
6.2in 19:9 FHD+ (2,160 x 1,080) “all-screen” display with 100% DCI-P3 coverage
ZenFone 5: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636; ZenFone 5Z: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
ZenFone 5 – up to 6GB; ZenFone 5Z – up to 8GB
ZenFone 5 -64GB ; ZenFone 5Z – 128GB
Dual Sony IMX363 camera: both 12MP, f/1.8, one has 83-degree field of view, second camera has 120-degree field of view
ZenFone 5 – TBC; ZenFone 5Z – £500
Asus ZenFone 5Z review: Design, key features and first impressions
That display has an impressive list of specifications, too. It measures 6.2in across the diagonal, has an an aspect ratio of 19:9, a resolution of 2,160 x 1,080, a maximum brightness of more than 500cd/m2, 100% DCI-P3 coverage and glove touch support so that (appropriately) you can use it when it’s freezing cold and snowing as well as indoors in the warm and dry.
In another nod to Apple, Asus has also included automatic colour temperature adjustment. Like Apple’s True Tone tech, the ZenFone is able to monitor its surroundings and adjust the white balance of the screen to match so when you’re working in artificial light reading the screen is a more comfortable experience.
And this has to be Asus’ best-looking phone to date. It’s available in dark blue and silver, and the finish has a subtle shimmer that catches the light really nicely. In terms of the practicalities, there’s a circular fingerprint reader in the centre of the rear panel, which is good and microSD card storage expansion and dual-SIM capabilities, too.
At £500 you’re looking at premium smartphone design for mid-range smartphone money. And the good news continues with the camera and internal specifications.
On the rear is a dual Sony IMX363 camera setup with phase-detect autofocus and four-axis optical image stabilisation. One is a regular 24mm equivalent camera and the other a wide-angle shooter, similar to the setup on the modular LG G5, launched at MWC 2016.
As with the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro this uses the AI elements of the phone’s Qualcomm chipset to dynamically detect scene-types and tweak the camera settings accordingly. It can recognise up to 16 different scene types, includes both dog and cat modes and, when I tested it briefly on some still images supplied by Asus, it worked pretty well.
The phone also does some AI optimisation of the charging process in an attempt to extend the lifespan of the battery. Effectively, the phone learns when you typically tend to go to bed and wake up, charges the phone up to 80% and then holds it there until an hour before you wake up before starting to charge once again.
^ Can you tell the difference? (Hint: the fruit-based phone is on the right)
As for the internal components, that depends on the model you buy. If you go for the (presumably) cheaper Asus Zenfone 5, you get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chip, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Alas, the price of the 5 has yet to be confirmed.
However, you may not be bothered about that when you learn that the Asus Zenfone 5Z, which has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 on board, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, is a mere £500. That’s amazingly good value for money when you compare it with the Samsung Galaxy S9 (£739) and S9+ (£869).
Asus ZenFone 5 and 5Z review: Early verdict
The Asus ZenFone 5 and the ZenFone 5Z are remarkable smartphones. They look great and the 5Z, in particular, squeezes in the level of features we’re used to seeing in phones costing an awful lot more.
With Snapdragon 845 on board, dual cameras and a price of a mere £500, the Asus ZenFone 5Z is an absolute winner and one of the best phones of MWC 2018. The only problem? It isn’t going to be available until summer, at which point, presumably, the OnePlus 6 will have also launched.